221. Information Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1
The attached memorandum of conversation between Cy Vance and Lau should be read in the light of this further report on what Dobrynin had to say about reconnaissance.2 When I raised reconnaissance, he [Page 653] asked: Did they understand fully your position on reconnaissance? I said that I had no doubt that they did understand it. It was clear that their initial instructions after the bombing halt forbade firing on reconnaissance aircraft.
He then asked: What was Lau’s reaction when Vance raised this matter with him in Paris ? I said that he took notes and agreed to inform his government.
He then asked: Why do you think they are now shooting at your aircraft when they did not shoot in the first days after the bombing halt?
I said that I did not know, but that he might take the trouble to find out.
Against this background, the Vance/Lau conversation attached suggests that they are going to test us pretty hard on reconnaissance.
You will also note that they say that no North Vietnamese troops are involved at the DMZ—an acknowledgment of that condition—but they do not take responsibility for the NLF. They are pressing us here to some purpose, and I am not sure which of the following it is:
- —to establish how determined we are about reconnaissance;
- —to force us to talk to the NLF;
- —to make us reduce the intensity of reconnaissance;
- —to put pressure on us to get Saigon to Paris.
In any case, they are pushing us.3
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI [1 of 2]. Secret; HARVAN Double Plus. The notation “ps” on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.↩
- See Document 218.↩
- In a memorandum to the President, November 15, 4 p.m., Rostow listed the President’s options to respond to the DRV’s “test” on reconnaissance and the DMZ, but noted that in the end the decision would be a political one: “Do we wish to react to the rather unpleasant talk in Paris about reconnaissance and the DMZ violations by this show of determination—or not?” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. VI [1 of 2])↩
- Secret; Nodis; HARVAN Double Plus.↩
- See footnote 2, Document 218.↩
- Telegram 23918/Delto 955 from Paris, November 14. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, A/IM Files: Lot 93 D 82, HARVAN-(Incoming)-November 1968) In telegram 23983/Delto 964 from Paris, November 15, the delegation wrote: “Reflecting upon Vance’s talk of last night with Lau, we have some tentative reactions on DMZ as follows: A. The DRV has confirmed the existence of an agreement with respect to the DMZ but is probing to see the limits of our understanding of the agreement. B. The DRV has made its opening move to try to draw distinction between the NVA forces and the NLF forces in the South. They will continue to try to press the alleged separation of responsibility in an attempt to push us toward talks with the NLF soon. C. With respect to Lau’s statement that there are no longer DRV troops in the DMZ, we should have all available information as soon as possible to be able to refute or confirm Lau’s statement.” (Ibid.)↩